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Medical societies urge supercommittee to address medical liability

Nearly 100 state and specialty medical societies are urging the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to include medical liability reforms in the legislative proposal it is due to release next month.

“The inefficiencies of our current medical liability system, escalating and unpredictable awards, and the high cost of defending against lawsuits, including those without merit, contribute to the increase in medical liability insurance premiums and add billions of dollars to the cost of healthcare each year, which means higher government spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health benefits programs, and higher health insurance premiums for patients,” reads the letters sent to the co-chairs of the supercommittee on Monday.

“Reforming the costly and inefficient medical liability system with proven solutions will save taxpayers money,” said AMA President Peter W. Carmel, MD in a statement. “Comprehensive reforms that include a reasonable limit on non-economic damages would reduce the federal budget deficit by $62.4 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.”

[See also: Physicians praise new medical liability bill.]

The letters sent to the supercommittee co-chairs offer the following liability reforms for consideration by the committee:

• A $250,000 cap on non-economic damages.
• Collateral source rule reform by allowing evidence of outside payments to be submitted in court and a ban on subrogation by certain collateral sources.
• Language from H.R. 816, the “Provider Shield Act of 2011,” that would prohibit new causes of action against physicians and other healthcare providers based on
standards or guidelines specified in the Affordable Care Act.
• Liability protections for physicians and other healthcare providers so that evidence of nonpayment or payment adjustments based on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ policies would be inadmissible as evidence in a liability claim or lawsuit to prove liability or establish a presumption of liability on behalf of a physician or other healthcare provider.
• Liability protections for physicians and other healthcare providers who provide emergency care or volunteer to treat victims of a disaster by requiring clear and convincing burden of proof.
• Reforms to require an individual who serves as an expert witness in a liability case to meet standards of expertise and knowledge.

“Preserving quality and access in medicine, while reducing unnecessary cost, will require fairness in the civil justice system,” said Carmel concluded in his statement. “Every dollar that government health programs spend on the broken medical liability system is money that cannot be used on healthcare.”

Follow HFN associate editor Stephanie Bouchard on Twitter @SBouchardHFN.